A Polity to Avoid Like the Plague

If the structures aren’t there, things go awry and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

There is a particular ecclesiological problem that is absolutely toxic. Actually, there are several. But there is one that rears its head frequently that, should you see it, I would counsel you to keep well away. That is the leader who surrounds himself with only with yes-men. It is the polity that puts one man above all others and then surrounds himself with an echo-chamber of his own thoughts.

 

I have been writing a lot about ecclesiology and polity lately. I didn’t intend to but one post became another and so it goes on. Every time I think I am done, something else crops up that seems worthy of comment. That should hardly be surprising (if you read my earlier comments) because almost everything that happens in our churches stems from our ecclesiology.

Evidently, then, I think ecclesiology is important and I am saddened that so many churches simply don’t seem to think so. In fact, so low on the list of priorities does it come that it barely gets a look in until that fateful day when the wheels start coming off. Only, at that point, it’s all too late isn’t it. The structures aren’t there, things go awry and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

As important as I think ecclesiology and polity are (and they are important), I don’t think faulty ecclesiology is always a reason to avoid a church. But I do think there are forms of ecclesiology and polity that spring up that should cause us to think twice about joining the church in the first place. Much ecclesiology owes far more to pragmatism than anything we read in the Bible and, whilst any model relying on it isn’t to be commended, of itself I’m not sure I would refuse to join in fellowship unless that spoke to a pragmatic principle running through the rest of the church (which it may well do).

But there is a particular ecclesiological problem that is absolutely toxic. Actually, there are several. But there is one that rears its head frequently that, should you see it, I would counsel you to keep well away. That is the leader who surrounds himself with only with yes-men. It is the polity that puts one man above all others and then surrounds himself with an echo-chamber of his own thoughts.

This came to mind for a series of reasons. Most recently, it was reading Stephen McAlpine’s blog post on the downfall of yet another mega church pastor. This toxic, horribly familiar story was playing out yet again. He comments:

The recurring central theme to these scandals is the manner in which a concerned, godly eldership is first enervated by an increasingly toxic church leader, then replaced by that church leader, before finally being excoriated publicly by that church leader, with the new leadership on stage leading the tomato throwing exercise.

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